Blind dates: Artists, scientists explore meaning of place, climate change for ‘Full Disclosure Festival’

Artists, scientists explore meaning of place, climate change for ‘Full Disclosure Festival’

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    Emma Ayres directs her cast May 26 at Grace Church Parish Hall during a rehearsal of "The Water Project," a folk opera they will perform at the Full Disclosure festival. JERREY ROBERTS

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    Janet Henderson of New Salem rehearses recently at Grace Church Parish Hall in Amherst for "The Water Project," a folk opera that will be performed at the “Full Disclosure Festival.” JERREY ROBERTS

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    Janet Henderson, of New Salem, from left, Bo Henderson, of New Salem, Sofia McNerney, of Shutesbury, and Zoe Young, of Sudbury, rehearse May 26 at Grace Church Parish Hall in Amherst for "The Water Project," a folk opera they will perform at the Full Disclosure festival. JERREY ROBERTS

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    From left, Sofia McNerney of Shutesbury, Janet Henderson of New Salem, and Zoe Young of Sudbury, rehearse at Grace Church Parish Hall in Amherst for "The Water Project," a folk opera they will perform at the “Full Disclosure Festival.” JERREY ROBERTS

  • Lori Holmes Clark rehearses for a dance duet with Meg Van Dyck on Tuesday that will be part of the Full Disclosure Festival in Greenfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Choreographer Lori Holmes-Clark partnered with poet Hildred Crill, who is a professor at Stockholm University and whose husband is a climatologist. —DAN LITTLE

  • Lori Holmes Clark, left, and Meg Van Dyck rehearse for a piece Clark choreographed after partnering with poet Hildred Crill, a professor at Stockholm University. DAN LITTLE

  • Lori Holmes Clark, left, rehearses for a dance duet with Meg Van Dyck that will be part of the “Full Disclosure Festival” in Greenfield. DAN LITTLE

  • Lori Holmes Clark, right, rehearses for a dance duet with Meg Van Dyck on Tuesday that will be part of the Full Disclosure Festival in Greenfield. —DAN LITTLE

  • Dancer Meg Van Dyck will perform with Lori Holmes Clark at the festival. DAN LITTLE

  • Lori Holmes Clark, right, rehearses for a dance duet with Meg Van Dyck on Tuesday that will be part of the Full Disclosure Festival in Greenfield. —DAN LITTLE

For the Gazette
Published: 6/8/2016 6:17:50 PM

Climate change may be the leading environmental threat to our planet, but for many people, it can seem too overwhelming to address personally, too far off in the distance, not of immediate urgency.

Linda McInerney, artistic director of Eggtooth Productions, aims to make a dent in that sentiment with this year’s “Full Disclosure Festival,” which will be held Friday and Saturday in downtown Greenfield.

The theme of the festival, which includes performance art, installations, dance, poetry readings, visual art and art she describes as “not yet named,” is “Against the Current: Human Impact Upon Place.”

“Climate change simply does not have the psychological and emotional characteristics that make it feel scary,” McInerney said in a recent interview.. “It doesn’t feel it-can-happen-to-ME personal. It doesn’t feel immediate. It doesn’t feel … real. It’s more of an idea, a concept, an abstraction.”

McInerney noted that there is much scientific data about climate change and an understanding of how to remediate its effects, but she believes there has been insufficient progress to halt it.

“We are not moving forward on this quickly enough,” she said. “I was thinking about what I could do, as one little person, to make a difference.”

Strike a chord

McInerney struck upon the idea of an event that would bring together scientists and others whose work either directly or indirectly relates to climate change with artists, in the hope that the art produced and exhibited might strike a deep inner chord that science often cannot touch.

She invited climatologists, anthropologists and historians to meet and converse with artists working in various disciplines to spark the creation of artwork that would help make the science more personal and accessible.

“The idea is this: We connect climatologists, anthropologists, and historians with artists to find new ways to express what we know and what we don’t know about the state of our earth past, present and future,” she said.

“By connecting artists with researchers, we allow the artist to translate the academic language of science and history into a populist language of art.”

The approach, she says, is meant to bring academic knowledge to the public in an effective way — “to touch them and incite them to action, to engage them in conversation, and to encourage reflection so that scholarly data may be experienced in an embodied way.”

It’s a date

Each participating artist was paired with a researcher and they went on a “blind date” at Seymour on Bank Row in Greenfield where they talked about their respective work. The goal was to have the historian, anthropologist or scientist provide the artist with material to interpret in a creative way.

Theater artist John Bechtold of Montague, who heads the performing arts program at Amherst Regional High School, went on such a “date” with Julie Brigham-Grette, professor of quaternary/glacial geology in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“She talked about the frustration of making climate change more immediate for people, about how something so hopelessly abstract can be made concrete and visceral in some way,” Bechtold said. He created a theater piece that aims to make the topic “hit home.”

Bechtold’s interactive piece is designed for one person to experience at a time. While he is waiting to reveal details of the piece at the festival, Bechtold said it will take participants into a building in downtown Greenfield and ask them to discover a “secret corner” of the space. There they will interact with actors one on one, in an exercise designed to explore the question of climate change and its impact over the next 100 years.

“The 20-minute piece explores what might change in our culture as a result of climate change,” he said. “It’s a pretty exciting, visceral piece that takes people on an adventure and allows them to explore the more human side of this issue.”

A deep examination

In another collaboration, dancer, teacher and choreographer Lori Holmes-Clark of Deerfield, partnered with poet Hildred Crill, who is a professor at Stockholm University and whose husband is a climatologist. Holmes-Clark emailed with Crill about her work, which, she said, “deals with scientific ideas and the natural world, examining things on a deep level and making you connect with it from the heart.”

A former Broadway dancer and choreographer, Holmes-Clark created a dance piece for six performers (including herself) that is set to Crill’s new cycle of poems titled “Human Appropriation,” which Crill will read as part of the performance.

Holmes-Clark said the project is especially meaningful because of her involvement in the successful fight against Kinder-Morgan’s NED pipeline, which was slated to pass over land that is part of the Clarkdale Fruit Farms, a farm that has been in her husband Ben’s family for 100 years.

“We feel very connected as farmers to this project and preserving our land and environment and protecting it from human appropriation,” she said.

Evolving ideas

Noted musician, visual artist, writer and professor Terry Jenoure of Greenfield went on a “blind date” with Dan Conlan, a beekeeper who owns Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield. Jenoure said the two had an hour-long conversation that primarily focused on how Conlan became a beekeeper and his earlier involvement with music.

“It was a great and warm conversation, but after that, I really had no idea what I was going to do,” Jenoure said. Eventually, elements of the conversation and what she learned about how bees communicate began to evolve into the development of a composition.

A violinist, Jenoure will perform with longtime collaborator, drummer Bob Weiner. The piece also includes pre-recorded musical and vocal elements in a 30-minute performance that will be presented at the festival.

“If you listen closely enough to a swarm of bees, there is so much complexity to the sound that we call buzzing,” Jenoure said. “What I am planning to do is still evolving, but it relates to that.”

‘The Water Project’

A centerpiece of the festival is Emma Ayres’ new production, “The Water Project,” a music-theater piece about the inundation of towns in 1938 to create the Quabbin Reservoir. Ayres, who is from Amherst, relates the history of the destruction of four towns in Franklin County, to create the reservoir, to present-day conflicts with power, politics and natural resources in a unique view of man’s impact upon the environment.

Other artists include Greenfield artist and gallery owner Rachael Katz, who had a blind date with anthropologist Elizabeth Chilton, a specialist in pre-colonial peoples of New England. Katz said she was particularly interested to learn that Chilton’s studies are based on only the tiniest fragments of artifacts that survived from regional Native American culture, given that most of their materials of life were made for reuse and did not survive intact.

“The artifacts that survived were no bigger than a pencil eraser and were things that could not be reused, such as bits of clay pottery and squirrel bones,” Katz said. “I am building my project around that aspect — how bits left behind can paint a picture.”

Katz, a former mechanical engineer, is creating an anamorphic projection, a type of three-dimensional art where the viewer sees different things depending upon where they are viewing from. If viewed at just the right angle, a picture will emerge.

While the work that will be presented at the festival is diverse and far-reaching, McInerney says, it all has a consistent theme of prompting viewers to think about the place we inhabit, both globally and locally, in its past, present and future incarnations and to “erase the borders between art and science.”

“The Full Disclosure Festival takes place Friday and Saturday throughout the streets and in indoor venues in downtown Greenfield.

Tickets cost $20 for the weekend, and are available at eggtooth.org.




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